Super Bowl Media Day can bring out the best and worse in professional journalists and athletes alike, especially when members of the press are dressed in wedding gowns and superhero costumes.
Rarely have there been any memorable moments or exchanges during these exercises with outliers such as Joe Namath famously guaranteeing his New York Jets would win Super Bowl III or then-Baltimore Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe defending teammate Ray Lewis against media hounds prior to Super Bowl XXXV.
Then there was that one-time former Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams was allegedly asked how long he’d been a Black quarterback.
It is one of the great myths in Super Bowl Media Day history.
I’ve been a quarterback since high school,” Williams said on the eve of Super Bowl XXII in response to the alleged question. I’ve always been black.”
Williams was the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl, and much of the focus was placed on that symbolism.
In the days and even years following Williams’ exchange with the press, there was not a football fan or reporter who didn’t cite that question posed to Williams as one coaxed in clumsy racism.
Bob Kravitz, a longtime journalist for the Rocky Mountain News, explained what really happened:I hate to burden this column with the truth — really, why start now? — but I was next to the guy when that question supposedly was asked of Doug Williams, and what the reporter actually said was, ”Doug, obviously you’ve been a black quarterback your whole life. When did race begin to matter to people?” Which was a perfectly reasonable question on a day when Williams was fielding hundreds of ”black quarterback” questions. Problem was, Williams either misunderstood or didn’t hear the question because he said, ”How long have I been a black quarterback?”
Former Washington Post scribe and current ESPN contributor Michael Wilbon covering the Super Bowl actually documented all of the race-related inquiries hurled at Williams that day.
Doug, do you feel like Jackie Robinson?””Doug, would you have been able to handle all of this, especially the black thing, if you had made the Super Bowl a few years back, say, when you were 25?”
“Doug, has there been much progress in this country since 1970, when the schools you grew up in were finally integrated?”
“Doug, do you feel because of the black quarterback issue, that the whole country is looking at you and saying, ‘Well, what are you going to do?'”
“Doug, would it be easier if you were the second black quarterback to play in the Super Bowl?””Doug, why haven’t you used being the first black quarterback as a personal forum for yourself?”
“Doug, will America be pulling for the Redskins, or rooting against them because of you?”
“Doug, what were your reactions to what Jimmy the Greek said?”
“Doug, have you been contacted by the Rev. Jesse Jackson or any other black civil rights leaders?”
“Doug, are you upset about all the questions about your being the first black quarterback in the Super Bowl?”
Not a single reporter asked Williams how long he’d been Black and a quarterback at the same time.
However, the myth irresponsibly continues to live to this day.
That’s what Super Bowl Media Day creates. Myths. Legends. Villains. Lies. One-liners.
And we dine on all of it.
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